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From the Money Museum’s treasury. Unique sketches

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The history of the Lithuanian currency litas goes hand in hand with the contribution of certain persons. Bankers, economists, politicians, artists - all of them contributed to the return of the litas in 1993, after the occupation that had lasted half a century. The help of one of those persons was especially valuable during the creation of national currency because that person had experience in money production. It was Lithuanian-Australian Kęstutis Jonas Lynikas (1924-1997). There aren’t many exhibits that demonstrate this historic person’s contribution to the creation of the litas. One of the few is exhibited at the Bank of Lithuania’s Money Museum and from afar, it looks like a doodle that someone would draw in their notebook. However, this sketch is much more important than it could seem at first. 


Lynikas was born in 1924 in Lithuania. In 1942, he started his studies at Vytautas Magnus University but did not finish them because the Nazi occupational administration shut it down. After that, Lynikas emigrated to Germany and later - to Australia, where he finally finished his chemistry studies and started working at the Banknote Printing Department of the Reserve Bank of Australia in 1961. He held various positions there and thus got well acquainted with the process of money production. Interestingly, Lynikas contributed to Australia adopting polymer (plastic) banknotes that have now become a sort of Australia’s trade mark. 


As for the litas production, his contribution was almost accidental. In 1989, while he was visiting Lithuania, he was invited to a TV show and, while giving an interview, he was talking about himself and mentioned his multiple years of experience in money production. After the interview, people who were supervising the currency creation contacted him and this is how he got involved in the litas creation. His tips were essential when Lithuanian institutions were negotiating with money production companies. According to Raimondas Miknevičius, who participated in the tender of the litas creation, it was the tips of Lynikas which helped Lithuanian institutions to avoid significant mistakes in negotiations with money production companies. 


The sketches that are exhibited at the Money Museum were Lynikas’ way of helping Lithuanian artists to get to know specific nuances of paper money design. In the USSR, paper money production was centralised, and there was no way for Lithuanians to be involved in the process. Therefore, when the litas banknote design tender was announced in the second half of 1989, artists who participated had no experience. The tender conditions were also sent to Lynikas in Australia, and although they reached him a little bit too late, he managed to do quite a lot of work. He asked his former coworkers at the Reserve Bank of Australia to give some expert advice but the request was refused in fear of an adverse reaction from the USSR. After that, Lynikas contacted his close friend who had many years of experience in paper money design. He provided a couple of drawings which served as guidelines for Lithuanian artists.


The author is unknown to this day because Lynikas never mentioned their name in his letters sent to Lithuania. The result was fairly abstract suggestions on the possible spatial arrangement of significant and protective elements on the banknote. The artist did not know much about Lithuania; actually, when looking at the drawings, the only clear Lithuanian accent on it is the name ‘Lithuania’ written in English. Figures incorporated into rectangles were neither Lithuanian nor, most probably, Australian - female and male silhouettes, a shape of a castle (which sort of resembles the Trakai Castle) were supposed to aid in better understanding of what the final product may look like. Under one of the sketches, the artist left a short note, “A banknote design should reflect a countries (sic) cultural or philosophical ideas, as well as securities“. However, his sketches contained no security features - since polymer banknotes had by then started circulating in Australia, he thought that Lithuania could issue similar banknotes. 
On 31 May 1990, in a letter addressed to Bronius Povilaitis, Chairman of the Board of the Bank of Lithuania, Lynikas claimed that his friend could prepare complete banknote projects for free, for the sake of the young state. However, in the end, the banknotes were made by using Lithuanian artists’ work and these sketches remain a token of the difficult history of the litas. 


The Bank of Lithuania Money Museum’s Book of Received Exhibits 7635 Trial sketches of Lithuanian money prepared by an artist of Australia’s central bank. 31.3x15.3 cm. Paper, sketching, drawing. Unknown artist, 1990, Australia. 
 

Money Museum
Last updated: 2021-11-30